Former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonClinton thanks protesters ahead of women’s march Trump takes office in tough place, but approval ratings do change The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch MORE, on the campaign trail, spoke of the anger being felt by so many on the right because the Tea Party promised all sorts of accomplishments -- repealing the Affordable Care Act, reducing the size of government and reducing the federal debt -- that Tea Party-backed candidates knew they could not deliver on. He observed that the Democratic Party is now experiencing something quite similar, a thinly veiled reference to the promises that are the centerpiece of the Sanders campaign. The Sanders campaign has cried foul, but President Clinton's analogy is undeniable.
Of course the Tea Party and the Sanders campaign are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But they very much have one thing in common: promises they cannot deliver on. When the Tea Party rose up in 2010, the trigger seemed to be a combination of deficit spending (put aside the fact that the protesters sat silently when deficits soared under Republican administrations) and the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Tea Party candidates ran on a platform that promised voters a sharp cut in government spending and repeal of the ACA. One did not need a Ph.D. in political science to know that with a Democrat in the White House, and filibuster rules in the Senate providing a strong-willed minority the ability to block pretty much anything, neither of these promises could be met.
Along comes Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump speaks with top Dem about high drug prices Sanders supports women marchers with tweet Five takeaways from Trump's inauguration MORE (I-Vt.), promising free college and free healthcare. What's not to like! His promises have the feel of the student council candidate promising free ice cream sundaes (or whatever the 2016 version of a high school goodie would be).
But just as the Tea Party could not deliver on its promises, Sanders cannot deliver on his, and for several reasons. First, no one honestly projects the Republicans to relinquish their majority in the House of Representatives before the 2022 elections, following the redrawing of district lines after the 2020 census. Does anyone expect a party that wants to reduce the size of government, and couldn't even swallow the Romney-inspired Affordable Care Act, to support the nationalization of the healthcare sector of our economy? And would a party whose governors are routinely reducing spending on education make a 180 and support spending billions of state dollars on free college tuition for all? That's what the Sanders proposal is based on -- having states put massive amounts of money, billions and in many cases tens of billions per state, into paying for free college. Finally, even liberal healthcare analysts insist that the Sanders healthcare proposal would cost trillions per year, an unfathomable amount against an entire federal budget of less than $4 billion per year.
So what? These promises, however well meaning, are no less craven than the Tea Party's promises, because proponents have to know that they are unachievable, and would engender the exact same anger that the Tea Party has generated through its fanciful promises. Is it fair to Democratic primary and caucus voters to have a candidate predicate his campaign on promises that cannot be kept?
More specifically, who can argue with the proposition that what Bill Clinton said is true. The anger on the right will be matched by the anger on the left if both parties are led by cheerleaders for the blatantly unachievable. Having seen what resulted from the unkept Tea Party promises -- the horror show of the Trump candidacy -- who could possibly think it is virtuous for both parties to endure such anger.
Keep it up, President Clinton. Please keep putting the spotlight on what is true in American politics, and what is fantasy. Eventually, all Democratic voters will thank you for that.
Goodstein is the principle of Goodstein & Associates, a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.